Category Archives: fiber art

Opening Up Possibilities with the FeltLOOM

We recently ran across this post by Jennifer at All Sorts Acre, and thought it was the perfect way to show how one FeltLOOMer works with her FeltLOOM. She has a Lexi, our tabletop model (below).

This week I thought I would try something different. I have a Lexi FeltLOOM needle felting machine. It is a great little machine that really opens up felting possibilities exponentially.

The Lexi FeltLOOM needle felting machine.

The Lexi FeltLOOM needle felting machine.

The Lexi means that I can make my own fabric. It makes the felting process faster, more versatile, and in some ways easier. Using it still has a learning curve, because, like felting, each type of fibre behaves very differently on it. Combine that with using a base fabric, and the possibilities are endless.

I don’t often use a base fabric in my felt projects, I usually just use wool, but having a woven fabric in between the front and back layer can give an incredible stability to the felt that can be time consuming to achieve when just using wool. Having the woven fabric in the centre also means that when sewing pieces together, no fabric stabilizer is needed. I have found that some types of wool are better for sewing into directly than others, but that is for another blog post.

Needle felted table runner.

Needle felted table runner.

Anyway, I had some loose cotton weave fabric lying around. I don’t remember too much about it, except that I wanted to experiment with it. So I did. Using some of my ready-to-use wool stash (all local and many different types) I got several balls of wool ready and layer it out onto the fabric.

I then put it through the FeltLOOM. To begin with I had fabric on one side only. I was not happy with this result as the woven fibres pulled and didn’t look lice on the back. So I ended up adding a layer to the back of the fabric as feel. this helped immensely. Not only did it hide the pulled threads, but it also gave the wool fibres on the front of the piece something to lock into on the back.

The front and back of the table runner.

The front and back of the table runner.

You can see threads from the cotton fabric at the edge of the piece. This is due to my rushing. Normally I would have had the fabric smaller than the piece O wanted to work on so when I trimmed it there would be a nice thread-free finished edge.
But this was an experiment so I just wanted to see what would happen.

I may put some edging on it, or further develop this into a purse or bag, I haven’t decided. yet. Regardless, I am gonigg to give it a quick wet felting to make sure all the fibres are truly locked together.  orFor now it makes a great table runner.

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Introducing New Energy & (Even More) Support at FeltLOOM!

Congratulations to Terri Stramba who recently signed on with FeltLOOM as a Manufacture Rep working with a title and job description of Business Development Manager!  Focusing on generating sales as well as helping to develop the dealer network, pre- and post-sales support, as well as additional products.  We recently caught up with Terri and had the chance to learn more about her interesting background and plans for the FeltLOOM.

FL_Stramba“I love seeing all the creative ways that the owners use the feltLOOM to create truly unique product. I have been surprised at just how many are using the FeltLOOM to make a simple insole product that is very popular and utilizes course fibers.  Then there are art installations, sound curtains, home decor, rugs from simple waste bits to glorious art rugs and then the garments that I am constantly in awe of what some of these artists are turning out. I think every time we expose the FeltLOOM to a new artist we are going to see new great creations as it is only limited by the imagination of the operator.”

TRENDSPOTTING IN FELTChristina_vest black and white_web

FeltLOOM: Do you see trends in felting through your own businesses that you can share with us?
Terri: I am finding people are coming around to Felt.  At a recent FeltLOOM owners conference Janice Arnold from JA Felt challenged us to develop a language of Felt. Simply meaning felt is when the fibers will shrink no more, everything else is pre-felt or a hybrid. Now that people are seeing high quality felt used in fashion, interest in it is growing again.

From the mill standpoint it gives an option to fiber growers that don’t want to be bothered with selling their yarn or have no interest in yarn. We can now take their fibers and turn them into rugs, blankets or fabric that they can use or give as gifts.

A DAY IN THE LIFE

Stramba_AlpacasFeltLOOM: What does the day in the life of Terri Stramba generally look like, and how do you manage all of the commitments and find time to be creative yourself?
Terri: I start the day around 5am checking emails and responding to inquiries.  We are a family-run mill, and we all meet around 8:00 to get started on the days’ work.  I return calls and follow up during the day from the studio while also using my studio as a second FeltLOOM showroom.  I have the 66 inch Pro Series and a Lexi in the studio.  We also will take the Lexi to the customer, shows, or offsite workshops.  During the afternoon I check on the alpacas. I usually save my larger projects for early evening. I also like to invite other fiber artists into the mill studio.  It is really fun to bring someone that has fantastic color theory into to show them how and were we blend color in the process of milling effects the outcome.

We are also putting together a schedule of workshops that we will be running on the FeltLOOM out of the studio as well. I tend to get inspired by inspiring others to create. The workshops will run similar to the now popular paint nites. We have done scarfs, wraps and rugs and will be adding a bag, happy feet insoles, a no sew vest and some other fun projects to the line up.

WORDS OF WISDOM
There is a use for every fiber out there, you just have to make sure the fit matches your project.  Compost is a perfectly viable use for short dirty seconds of any breed of animal.  Don’t try to use course seconds for fine fabric or yarn.  But It is suitable for corespun rug yarn, felted rugs, or insoles. Grade 1 baby any fiber is not going to hold up to wear and tear on a garment or home decor item but makes a luxury yarn.  Don’t fear the blends, some people are truly allergic to wool, but for others there are some truly wonderful wool breeds that will make your alpaca felt or spin into a better finished product as well as some fun fibers to sass things up a bit…..  The only wrong thing to do with your fiber is nothing, get it out of storage and let us show you how to turn it into product to use or sell, with the FeltLOOM!

I encourage anyone who is interested in learning more about the FeltLOOM to contact me at 855 335 8566.
THE FELTLOOM FAMILYTerriStramba

FeltLOOM has worked hard to build a family community feel with continuing education at their annual FeltLOOM owners conference held the first weekend after labor day at Lanmark farm.  FeltLOOM will be bringing on soft goods to help supply the FeltLOOM owners beyond the sale of the machines with high quality fibers, needles, and other goods to help them with their materials needs in one place at a great price.

Creative FeltLOOM Ideas at All Sorts Acre

FL_Feltworks3One member of the FeltLOOM community is All Sorts Acre,   a sheep farm in Guelph, Ontario, Canada; raising grass fed lamb, producers of wool, and a talented fiber artist in their midst. With a flock strongly aligned to Shetland Sheep lineage, Shetland Sheep lineage goes back thousands and thousands of years in the Shetland Isles, it is presumed that they were brought there by the earliest Viking Settlers. They are known for their natural hardiness, lambing ease, longevity, and ability to survive under harsh conditions, they are known as primitive, short-tailed breed.
Did you know that U.S. President Woodrow Wilson grazed sheep on the White House South Lawn, selling the wool as a fundraiser for the American Red Cross? All Sorts Acre may not have “Old Ike” President Woodrow Wilson’s tobacco chewing ram, but they surely have a good-sized flock of Shetland Sheep bred for their beautiful and colorful wool. They also have a FeltLOOM!

“Our sheep can produce some beautiful colored fleeces. We love and appreciate the natural colors. It is hand washed, processed and dyed here at the farm. We use environmentally friendly soaps to preserve our water, and both eco-friendly and natural dyes. We also offer a variety of felted products from wool.”

Meet Jennifer Osborn, Sheep Farmer, grass-fed lamb producer, wool seller as well as fiber artist. Many producers have their wool processed into yarn, roving, blankets, or crafts and market value-added products.

Fleeces sold to hand spinners need to be of high quality. Feeding, housing, health care, handling, and harvesting; are all critical to the production of high quality wool. It goes without saying that fleeces should be skirted. Skirting is when the undesirable parts of the fleece are removed: belly wool, top knots, leg clippings, tags, stained wool, cotted wool, and short wool.AllSortsAcre2

All Sorts Acre Feltworks sells Jennifer’s felted fiber artwork, she uses a Lexi model FeltLOOM® to create her beautiful fiber artwork, from scarves, to clothing, to felted candle holders, and even sculpting little critters.

Jennifer shares her talent in workshops in needle felting, wet felting, sculpting, technical wet felting, dyeing, and home wool processing. And 2014 was packed with exhibitions and juried art shows where Jennifer’s art work was on display in galleries, art fairs and at market.

When asked what foundational experience comes into play when dyeing wool, Jennifer says,  “I have found my art training helps immensely. My original dyeing experience was using acid dyes. I found it quite fascinating, but often acid dyes have non-paint color names.  As a painter I used a limited color palette, around 10 colors. All colors were mixed using these 10 base colors such as alizarin crimson, cerulean blue, and cadmium yellow. I had no reference for the dye colors from a mixing standpoint.  I now create my own colours that I name myself.  If I am acid dyeing I use Greener Shades exclusively. I am in the process of developing dye formulations that are similar to paint colors.

When she began using natural dyes, Jennifer was struck by how similar they are to earth tone paints. Dyeing with natural dyes helped her make smooth and rich color selection. They all go together beautifully. “I love the idea of having the colors you are using reflect the landscape you are in.”

We wanted to learn more, so we interviewed Jennifer directly at All Sorts Acre:

allsortsacredyesFeltLOOM: When you weigh all the different factions of All Sort Acres (dyeing the wool, creating one of a kind artwork, felting, teaching, farming, etc.) if there any part that you like over the rest, or dislike over the rest?

ASA: It is the variety that I love so much. Being a part of a farm to fiber, education to art endeavor has given me an incredible variety of things I will do in a day, a week, or a year. It is incredibly inspiring. I never have the same day twice. I don’t like doing repetitive tasks, but the pattern and rhythm of the year I love. It is repetition on a longer scale. Touchstones such as lambing time, shearing, and color harvesting time all contribute to the creation of artwork. I imagine it would be similar to renaissance painters having to create their paint before even beginning a painting. Growing my fiber and color gives me a lot of time to be with my materials in a very meditative way. I think the sheep have influenced me that way. They are almost like little woolly Buddha’s.

I get immersed in the stages of the process of creation from shepherding to final touches. When dyeing wool, I am fully present in the activity. Playing with the color possibilities, techniques, experiments and mistakes is engrossing and then and there I am in love with color. When up to my elbow in sheep juices, trying to make sure a lamb will make it, I am in awe of the experience and I would rather be nowhere else on earth. I get so excited the first time a student sees what they have created from loose fibers. Creating artwork requires its own space as well. I need to be in that space fully, not thinking about what to dye, what fixing needs to be done, or if there is weeding to be done. I need to focus on my tasks fully. I feel I need to acknowledge the art and craft of each activity.

FL_Feltworks2I guess if there was one part I have decided I do not need to be quite so immersed in, it is the fibre processing. That is due to time and equipment constraints, and other people can do it faster and better. I now got to Ute, owner of Freelton Fibre Mill a couple of hours away. She is great.

FeltLOOM:   What interests bring you to your artistic creations (i.e. nature, color, etc.)?

ASA:  Life itself is inspiring, which can be overwhelming for an artist. When I switched media many aspects of my work changed. After many years of painting, I am rediscovering many things I chose to put aside when deciding to focus on two dimensions. Being able to incorporate sculpture, texture, and more abstraction into my work is artistically exciting. As a painter many of these things never felt right. As a fiber artist, it fits like a glove.
As a painter, subject was prominent in my paintings. I still like to depict nature in both realistic and abstracted styles, but I am also exploring the possibilities of material, technique, process, color, emotion, and viewer interaction.

Texture and pattern take on a whole different feeling when done in felt.  With every piece I have 20 more potential directions the next piece could go. I am deliberately focusing on exploring a specific technique, topic, or theme to see how far I it can go. Unlike modern paint which is often very consistent, using wool can be variable.

I am also inspired by the thought that a viewer will touch the piece. I try and encourage it when I am at art fairs. Painting is very much a hands-off activity; you look with your eyes. Felt is, well, meant to be felt. This is new and exciting to me.

Creative Inspirations and Felted Designs at Stonehill Originals

FL_StonehillPurpleStonehill Originals established in 2005 with the purchase of her initial 5 Alpacas, today owner Debbie Braunlich has a herd of 30 tucked away on a farm in Paarl, Cape Town, South Africa. All textiles are created from natural fibers, such as alpaca, merino and mohair which they mix with other natural fibers such as silk, cashmere and plant fibers; making truly original fabrics. We wanted to know a little more about Stonehill Originals, so we asked Debbie:

FeltLOOM: How do you select the fibers that you use for each project? And does it make a difference when you think about your final project and how you work with the wool on your FeltLOOM?

DB-SO:   Having been an alpaca breeder for just on ten years now, my main source of fiber is alpaca from my own herd but I also do buy fiber from other breeders as well. The alpaca fiber ranges from 16 micron to the really coarse in the 30 micron region. South Africa is also one of the largest merino wool exporters in the world and we have beautiful quality wool from 17 micron and upwards to choose from. When making garments, I use the finest quality wool ie 16-21 micron of either alpaca or merino or a combination. Other natural fibers are added for textural difference or accents, such as Tussah silk and mohair locks. Karakul is also used for the projects which require coarser textures, such as wall hangings, etc.
FL_StonehillRustI make hybrid (nuno) felt which is wool on another fabric such as silk or cotton for jackets, dresses and wraps as well as the more traditional felt ie pure wool only where this felt is used for items such as baby bootees, insoles, household products etc.

FeltLOOM: Do you think about the project first when you design your fabric, or do you think about the color and how it plays with other colors?  What is your creative process?

DB-SO:  Each project is different.  It all depends on what the final item requires : drapeability, texture, mood, size – a lot of different aspects.

Sometimes the final garment will require very simple, one colour felt that can drape which is one of the huge benefits of the FeltLOOM!   (For instance, the cream jacket wrap that you may have seen on my Facebook page?). Using silk or Indian cotton as a scrim (base fabric), I then lay out the fibre dependent on the density required. The FeltLOOM relieves the felt maker from a lot of physical work in that the ‘fabric’ then gets processed through the FeltLOOM very quickly (about ¼ of the time it would take to wet-felt the same piece). I do finish the process by wet-felting (a quick wet and roll) the fabric to get a really taut fabric but this is not necessary if the item is to be a wall hanging or similar where there is little wear and tear. Sometimes I envisage how the final product could look and then layout the fiber accordingly, for instance, adding embellishments or accents where I would like them to be on the garment. For example, in the one felted dress, I hand-carded brown, grey and black alpaca and lay this out on a cream alpaca background which, for me, is reminiscent of our beautiful stone that we find on Table Mountain and the Cedarberg here in the Cape.   Occasionally, I do work from photographs or pictures too to try to emulate a particular look or texture that a client may like.

FL_StonehillVerticalgrayColor is very important. The natural shades of the alpaca are beautiful to work with and I love creating combinations as seen in the blanket wrap on my Facebook page which is three shades of natural alpaca (cream, red-brown and grey) embellished with Tussah silk which just ‘pops’ the colors beautifully. With merino, besides the beautiful batts that we are able to purchase from Lanette, I also use hand-dyed rovings of South African merino and use these either in single color or blend colors together on my drum-carder.   I hope to be able to send photos of these items in the not too distant future!

FeltLOOM: Do you have a favorite fiber? Perhaps alpaca, wool, or another one?

DB-SO: I love both alpaca and wool– alpaca is gloriously soft and the natural shades are divine!  It is more of a challenge to get alpaca to felt than merino but the luxurious feel is amazing! I use merino where I need color as it lends itself to being dyed and makes a wonderful, taut felt – with the FeltLOOM, I can make a very fine merino felt now too!

FeltLOOM: What tips or techniques have you learned that you find especially helpful, that you’d like to share?

DB-SO: When the fabric is going to be used in a garment, I find it important to finish the process with a little bit of wet-felting to ‘pull’ the fibers together as the felt can ‘pill’ sometimes where there is friction for example, on the elbows.   It’s very quick – once the fabric is completed on the FeltLOOM, I lay it out on the table, wet it with warm (not hot) water to open the scales of the wool fibers, add a bit of natural soap and then roll it on a big PVC pipe – just a few times.   If there are any particularly stubborn patches, I rub those spots in a circular motion and do the final roll with the fabric on itself ie not with a pipe, this gives a lovely final finish.   I have done an online felting surface design course with Fiona Duthie, who is based in Canada, and some of her techniques are a huge bonus.  Once the fabric is dry, it is steam-pressed and then ‘Voila!’, it is ready to be turned into a garment or its’ original intended purpose!

It has been suggested that this process can be done in a washing machine but I’m not entirely sure that this is the way to go as it tends to shrink the fabric rather than ‘full’ it properly.   So I prefer the route I’ve chosen – the results are great.  And, with the FeltLOOM, it is still WAY quicker and easier than wet-felting an enormous piece of fabric!!

I still feel that I have an enormous amount to learn using the FeltLOOM and from other users.  Sometimes it is challenging being on the other side of the globe to FeltLOOM especially when I know they have conquered certain techniques already and I am muddling around, trying to find my own way! I know Judy Roberts in Australia has the same challenges however we are happily pioneering our own way into the felting world with FeltLOOM in our respective countries and support each other by email and phone calls!  Lanette and Dick at FeltLOOM are always just an email away when I’ve needed help, so the support is amazing! And now with Terri Stramba on board too, the response times are fantastic!

FeltLOOM: A Family of “Fiber” Entrepreneurs

FL_LanmarkFarmFeltLOOM founders, Lanette Frietag and Don Bowles, have been operating a working farm since 1984 and started a wool mill to make their farm sustainable. They saw a need for a large-scale felting machine and there weren’t any available, so they set out to develop their own. In the words of Lanette, “We started our mill in 2003 and took 5 years to have a working prototype that we thought was a good unit for a fiber artist. We received a rural development grant from Kentucky Science and Technology to help us through the process of product development with the requirements we had. There were many tweaks to make it an outstanding unit. The farm was the beginning of the FeltLOOM. The US utility patent was allowed in 2008.”

Lexi n rampFeltLOOM, like most family businesses, has a small, dedicated group of people who do all the work. We wear many hats to do the different tasks that need to be done. For example, marketing the FeltLOOM is a challenge because there is a great deal of education that goes with it. This is new thought in a way to make products and it needs to be shown. Goal setting is very important to our focus. It keeps us on tack for growth. However, we try to have Sundays as a day away from typical business activities to refresh our minds.

Don and Lanette have a team of FeltLOOMers behind them, working directly on the business and contributing to the FeltLOOM community through their discoveries and learning of how to expand the possibilities with the FeltLOOM.

FL_SampleYellowRedDon manages the production, new product development, engineering, and warranty piece and assist with sales.
Lanette manages overall operation, website, customer correspondence, fiber art research, marketing and financial planning. We have help to build the units and run the mill.  FeltLOOM has grown consistently since it was first developed, and now they offer various models, depending on the customer needs. For example, an artist may choose a model from the Artist Series and a fiber mill might choose another, larger FeltLOOM model, such as the Pro Series or the Lab Series.

The FeltLOOM Owner’s Event is a major annual event and has become a tradition. In the words of Lanette, “We invite the FeltLOOM Owners to come the farm and have a sharing, learning experience that last for three days. We have special activities the encourage growth in fiber art with the FeltLOOM. It is a fun time and we look forward to it. Many owners have come every year, and don’t want to miss it.”

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FeltLOOM continues to grow and expand into new areas. It is an innovative tool that serves fiber artists, educators, fiber mills, and light industry.

Learn more by watching the FeltLOOM team live on a recent Fiber Art Now FAN Fare program.